Easy New England Clam Chowder Recipe in 6 Simple Steps

This easy New England Clam Chowder is rich and creamy and is made without bacon. Also known as white clam chowder or Rhode Island Clam Chowder, this hearty soup is sure to please the “chowdah” lover on your list!

New England Clam chowder is easier to make than you may think! This homemade version is unbelievably creamy and full of clam flavor! This basic recipe is very versatile, too — and can accommodate many add-ins like salty bacon, Portuguese smoked chourico, celery, and carrots. The choice is yours!

A bowl of creamy white clam chowder on a striped blue towel. A small wooden spoon sits at the bottom left and saltine crackers are at the top right.

 New England Clam Chowder Ingredients and Tools


  • Chopped Clams – Fresh or canned both work well. We use leftover clams from a Clam Boil.
  • Clam Juice [paid link] – Fresh or bottled both works well. We generally reserve the drippings from a clam boil which we freeze for later.
  • Potatoes – Russets or Yukon Gold potatoes work well for boiling.
  • Onion – Sweet Vidalia or Spanish yellow. 
  • Butter – Salted or unsalted both are fine.
  • Milk (or cream) – Cream adds a rich creamer mouthfeel to the chowder but whole milk may be used as well.
  • Flour – I use all-purpose flour but gluten-free flour or cornstarch would also be fine as the thickener.
  • Salt & Pepper – to taste to season the soup base.
  • Oyster Crackers – optional
  • Parsley – Freshly chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley is my favorite.
A bowl of New England Clam chowder with a spoonful about to be eaten.


The ingredients for New England Clam Chowder.

How to prepare New England Clam Chowder without Bacon:


  1. Saute the onions
  2. Add the clam juice [paid link].
  3. Cook the potatoes until tender.
  4. Add the thickener.
  5. Add the milk (or cream) and chopped clams.
  6. Garnish as desired with parsley and crackers.
  7. Serve with fried clam cakes.

Why this New England Clam Chowder recipe works

The success of a New England clam chowder recipe can be attributed to several factors that contribute to its delicious flavor and texture. Here are some key reasons why a well-crafted New England clam chowder recipe works:

  1. Fresh Ingredients: Using fresh clams, potatoes, onions, and other ingredients is crucial for the authentic flavor of clam chowder. Freshness enhances the overall taste and quality of the dish.
  2. Clam Broth: Many recipes call for using clam broth as a base. This broth is often made by simmering fresh clams in water, extracting their flavors. It adds a rich seafood essence to the chowder.
  3. Creaminess: The creamy texture of New England clam chowder comes from the addition of heavy cream or milk. This gives the soup a velvety richness that complements the savory taste of clams.
  4. Seasonings: Proper seasoning with salt, pepper, and sometimes herbs like thyme or bay leaves enhances the overall flavor profile. Balancing the seasonings is crucial for achieving the perfect taste.
  5. Bacon: Many recipes include bacon, which adds a smoky and savory element to the chowder. The rendered fat from the bacon can also be used to sauté onions and other aromatics, contributing to the depth of flavor.
  6. Potatoes: Potatoes are a staple ingredient in clam chowder, providing a hearty and filling component to the soup. They also help thicken the chowder naturally.

Recipe tips and kitchen tricks

  1. Mise en Place: Tip: “Mise en place” is a French culinary term that translates to “everything in its place.” Before you start cooking, gather and prepare all your ingredients. Chop vegetables, measure out spices, and have everything ready to go. This not only streamlines the cooking process but also ensures that you don’t forget any key ingredients while cooking.
  2. Flavor Layering: Tip: To build complex and well-balanced flavors, layer your ingredients and seasonings throughout the cooking process. Start by sautéing aromatics like onions and garlic, then add spices or herbs. Add liquids like broth, wine, or sauces at different stages to allow flavors to meld.
  3. Proper Knife Skills: Tip: Invest time in improving your knife skills. Properly chopped ingredients not only look more appealing but also cook more evenly. Learn basic techniques like the julienne, mince, and dice.
A finished pot of creamy New England Clam Chowder being ladled out of a blue Dutch oven cast iron pot.

Clam Chowder Recipe Variations

  1. Spicy Cajun Clam Chowder: Add a Cajun twist to your clam chowder by incorporating Cajun spices like paprika, cayenne pepper, and thyme. Sauté onions, bell peppers, and celery with the spices before adding clams, potatoes, and clam broth. Finish with a touch of heavy cream for richness. The Cajun spices will bring a bold and flavorful kick to the traditional chowder.
  2. Bacon and Corn Clam Chowder: Enhance the flavor profile of your clam chowder by adding crispy bacon and sweet corn. Sauté diced bacon until golden brown, then use the rendered fat to cook onions and garlic. Add clams, potatoes, clam broth, and fresh or frozen corn kernels. Finish with cream and season to taste. The combination of bacon and corn adds smokiness and sweetness to the chowder.
  3. Herb-infused Mediterranean Clam Chowder: Give your clam chowder a Mediterranean twist by incorporating herbs like rosemary, thyme, and oregano. Sauté onions, garlic, and a mix of Mediterranean herbs before adding clams, potatoes, and clam broth. Finish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of fresh parsley. The aromatic herbs will add a fragrant and earthy dimension to the chowder.

Serving Suggestions

  1. Crusty Bread Bowl: Serve clam chowder in a hollowed-out crusty bread bowl. The bread not only serves as a vessel for the chowder but also provides a delicious way to soak up the creamy broth. It adds a rustic touch to the presentation and enhances the overall dining experience.
  2. Garnish with Fresh Herbs: Sprinkle fresh herbs like chopped parsley or chives on top of the clam chowder just before serving. The vibrant green colors and fresh flavors add a pop of brightness to the dish, elevating its visual appeal and taste.
  3. Lemon Wedges: Place lemon wedges on the side for diners to squeeze over their clam chowder. The acidity of the lemon enhances the flavors of the chowder and provides a refreshing contrast to the creamy and savory notes.
  4. Side of Oyster Crackers or Breadsticks: Serve oyster crackers or breadsticks on the side to complement the chowder. These crunchy accompaniments can be dipped into the chowder, adding texture and an extra layer of flavor to each bite.
  5. Pair with a Simple Salad: Balance the richness of clam chowder with a light and crisp salad. A simple green salad with a lemon vinaigrette or a classic Caesar salad can be a refreshing accompaniment. The contrast in textures and flavors creates a well-rounded meal.

Storing, freezing, and reheating instructions

Note: Dairy-based soups like clam chowder may undergo texture changes after freezing and reheating. To help maintain the creamy consistency, stir well during reheating and consider adding a touch of fresh cream if needed.

Storing Clam Chowder:

  1. Refrigeration: If you have leftover clam chowder, allow it to cool to room temperature before refrigerating. Store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
  2. Avoid Overcrowding: Divide large batches into smaller containers for quicker cooling and to avoid overcrowding the refrigerator.

Freezing Clam Chowder:

  1. Cool Completely: Ensure that the clam chowder is completely cooled before freezing.
  2. Use Freezer-Safe Containers: Transfer the chowder to freezer-safe containers, leaving some space at the top to allow for expansion. Alternatively, you can use heavy-duty freezer bags.
  3. Label and Date: Label the containers with the date of preparation to keep track of freshness.
  4. Freeze for up to 3 Months: Clam chowder can be frozen for up to 2-3 months for optimal quality.

Reheating Clam Chowder:

  1. Thawing: If frozen, thaw clam chowder in the refrigerator overnight.
  2. Stovetop Method:
    • Transfer the chowder to a saucepan [paid link] and heat over medium-low heat.
    • Stir occasionally to prevent sticking and ensure even heating.
    • Once heated through, serve immediately.
  3. Microwave Method:
    • If reheating a smaller portion, the microwave can be used.
    • Place the chowder in a microwave-safe container and heat in short intervals, stirring in between, until thoroughly heated.
  4. Check Temperature: Ensure that the clam chowder reaches a safe internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) when reheating to eliminate any potential bacteria.

Frequently Asked Questions FAQs

What is the difference between New England and Manhattan clam chowder?

New England clam chowder is creamy and typically made with milk or cream, while Manhattan clam chowder is tomato-based and has a broth-like consistency. New England chowder is white, and Manhattan chowder is red due to the tomatoes.

Can I use canned clams for clam chowder?

Yes, you can use canned clams for convenience. Make sure to drain and rinse them before adding to the chowder. However, many prefer the flavor of fresh clams for a more authentic taste.

What are some common herbs and spices used in clam chowder?

Common herbs and spices include thyme, bay leaves, black pepper, and sometimes a pinch of cayenne pepper for added warmth. Fresh parsley is often used as a garnish.

Can I make clam chowder ahead of time?

Yes, clam chowder can be made ahead of time. Store it in the refrigerator and reheat it on the stovetop or in the microwave when ready to serve. Keep in mind that the texture may change slightly upon reheating.

Can I freeze clam chowder?

Yes, clam chowder can be frozen for up to 2-3 months. Ensure it is fully cooled before transferring to freezer-safe containers. Thaw in the refrigerator before reheating. u003cstrongu003eNote:u003c/strongu003e Dairy-based soups like clam chowder may undergo texture changes after freezing and reheating. To help maintain the creamy consistency, stir well during reheating and consider adding a touch of fresh cream if needed.

How do I prevent the chowder from curdling when reheating?

To prevent curdling, reheat clam chowder over low to medium heat, stirring frequently. Adding a bit of fresh cream during reheating can help maintain the creamy consistency.


Wine & Cocktail Pairings

Wine Pairings:

  1. Chardonnay: The buttery and oaky notes of a Chardonnay complement the creamy texture of New England clam chowder. The subtle acidity in the wine cuts through the richness, creating a balanced pairing.
  2. Sauvignon Blanc: A crisp and refreshing Sauvignon Blanc pairs well with clam chowder, especially if it has herbal and citrusy notes. The brightness of the wine enhances the flavors of the chowder without overpowering it.
  3. Pinot Grigio: With its light and zesty profile, Pinot Grigio is a versatile choice. It won’t overshadow the delicate taste of the clams and allows the creaminess of the chowder to shine.

Cocktail Pairings:

  1. Bloody Mary: The bold and savory flavors of Bloody Mary, made with tomato juice, vodka, and various spices, complement the tanginess of Manhattan clam chowder. The hint of spiciness adds an extra layer of complexity.
  2. Gin and Tonic: A classic Gin and Tonic with its crisp and botanical notes can be a refreshing companion to clam chowder. The effervescence and herbal qualities of the cocktail contrast nicely with the richness of the soup.
  3. Moscow Mule: The combination of vodka, ginger beer, and lime in a Moscow Mule provides a refreshing and slightly spicy kick that pairs well with the creaminess of clam chowder. The effervescence and citrusy notes complement the dish.
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New England clam chowder 14

New England Clam Chowder

Ronda Eagle | Kitchen Dreaming
This easy New England Clam Chowder is rich and creamy and is made without bacon. Also known as white clam chowder or Rhode Island Clam Chowder, this homemade rich & creamy chowder is sure to please the "chowdah" lover on your list!
5 from 5 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Course Soup
Cuisine American
Servings 4 servings
Calories 332 kcal



  • 2 tbsp Butter
  • 1 cup Onion , diced
  • 0.5 cup Celery , diced – optional
  • 0.5 cup Carrots , diced – optional
  • 2 tablespoons All-purpose flour [See Note 1]
  • 3 cups Clam juice [paid link]
  • 1 pound Potatoes , peeled, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 cups Chopped clams
  • 3 cups Whole Milk
  • 1 tsp Salt , to taste
  • 1/2 tsp Ground black pepper , to taste
  • 1 tbsp Parsley. freshly chopped


  • In a heavy stockpot or Dutch oven [paid link], melt the butter and then add the onion (celery and carrots if using) and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent about 5-7 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, drain the clam juice [paid link] from the chopped clams and combine with enough bottled juice to equal 3 cups of liquid.
  • Add the potatoes and simmer until tender, about 10-15 minutes.
  • Prepare the thickner: Make a paste with the flour and 2-3 Tbsp water. Add to the stock pot and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Whisk [paid link] to remove lumps.
  • Add the clams and milk (or cream) to the soup base. Simmer over medium heat for 1-2 minutes.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with Oyster Crackers and freshly chopped parsley.
  • Serving Suggestions: Serve with our New England Clam Cakes.


  1. Flour is used as the thickener. You will add this with enough water to make a thick paste. Add it into the stock pot and whisk [paid link] to combine. If gluten-free, instead use corn starch or gluten-free flour.


Serving: 10ozCalories: 332kcalCarbohydrates: 44gProtein: 13gFat: 12gSaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 38mgSodium: 1276mgPotassium: 879mgFiber: 4gSugar: 15gVitamin A: 708IUVitamin C: 22mgVitamin D: 2µgVitamin E: 1mgVitamin K: 1µgCalcium: 267mgFolate: 53µgIron: 4mgZinc: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

11 thoughts on “Easy New England Clam Chowder Recipe in 6 Simple Steps”

  1. I grew up in Rhode Island and miss chowder and clam cakes. This recipe is wonderful. Going to make it again for a big group of people in New Jersey who need a little Rhode Island comfort food!

  2. Your recipes for chowder and clam cakes are almost identical to mine. Grew up in R.I. And made this so frequently and now for our children every time we get together. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I made the Clam Chowder for Super Bowl Sunday . It was a big hit and gone by halftime. It was the best I have had in a long time. will be making again real soon. Thank you for posting.


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